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The Impressive Array of Kit Homes in Bowling Green, Ohio

August 2nd, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

When my dear friend Dale heard the saga about the threatened demolition of the Pop Culture Building (a mail-order kit home) at BGSU, he offered to send me photos of the other kit homes he’d found in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Bowling Green has an impressive array of kit homes, and I’m confident that there are more than we’ve documented below. For instance, in Rebecca Hunter’s book (Putting Sears Homes on the Map), she found that a Sears Argyle was built in Bowling Green in the 1910s or 20s.

Where is it now?

Either Dale didn’t see it (which is possible, as we rarely have time to examine every house on every street), or the Argyle also got in the way of progress, and met a fate similar to what may befall the Sears Lewiston.

Fact is, colleges are notorious bungalow eaters. Seems as though colleges are often positioned in the heart of early 20th Century development, and as they expand and grow, the working-class and middle-class bungalows from the 1910s, 20s and 30s get gobbled up and spit out as landfill rubble.

The Wardway/Sears Lewiston at BGSU is a rarity, and less than 25,000 Wardway Homes were built (from 1909-1932). Even more interesting, based on my research, the Wardway “Lewiston” at BGSU may be the only one of its kind. To learn more about that home’s unique history, click here.

At some point, we need to stop destroying these historically significant homes.

Demolishing old houses is not very environmentally friendly, either. According to “The Slate Roof Bible” (2003, by Joseph Jenkins), 28% of the debris found in landfills is from demolition or remodeling.)

I’m still hopeful that Bowling Green State University will reverse their decision and not send 300,000+ pounds of kit home (sans additions) to the landfill on August 7th.

At the very least, this house should be MOVED and not destroyed.

Special thanks to architectural historian (and co-author) Dale Wolicki for providing the photos of the kit homes in Bowling Green, Ohio.

To read more about the potentially sad fate of the kit home at BGSU, click here.

UPDATED: To read about the realistically smart idea of MOVING the BGSU house, click here.

To sign a petition to help save this house, click here.

Can this house at BSGU be moved? Heck yeah. Heres a Sears Lynnhaven (similar in size to the house at BGSU) rolling down the road to its new location.

Can this house at BSGU be moved? Heck yeah. Here's a Sears Lynnhaven (similar in size to the house at BGSU) rolling down the road to its new location.

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The Sears Willard was a popular house. Heres a picture from the 1929 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Sears Willard was a popular house. Here's a picture from the 1929 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Picture-perfect Sears Willard in Bowling Green, Ohio. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

Picture-perfect Sears Willard in Bowling Green, Ohio. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Sears Arlington as seen in the 1919 catalog.

Sears Arlington as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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Another beautiful Sears House (The Arlington) in Bowling Green. On a side note, Sears Homes were not pre-fab, but pre-cut. Theres a big difference. In one of the early reports I saw on the Lewiston kit home at the BGSU campus, it said the house was pre-fab. Not true. These mail-order kit homes from the 1920s and 30s were pre-cut.

Another beautiful Sears House (The Arlington) in Bowling Green. On a side note, Sears Homes were not pre-fab, but pre-cut. There's a big difference. In one of the early reports I saw on the Lewiston kit home at the BGSU campus, it said the house was pre-fab. Not true. These mail-order kit homes from the 1920s and 30s were pre-cut. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Sears Rodessa was a cute, but distinctive house (1921).

Sears Rodessa was a cute, but distinctive bungalow (1921).

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The Sears Rodessa in Bowling Green on High Street.

The Sears Rodessa in Bowling Green on High Street. You'll notice from the image above, this house is in mostly original condition. This is a rare treat to see these more modest homes unmolested by the asbestos/aluminum/vinyl siding salesmen. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Unless its sitting at the landfill, theres also a Sears Argyle somewhere in Bowling Green. Id be grateful if someone in Bowling Green would let me know if theyve seen this house - and better yet - get a photo!

Unless it's sitting at the landfill, there's also a Sears Argyle somewhere in Bowling Green. I'd be grateful if someone in Bowling Green would let me know if they've seen this house - and better yet - get a photo!

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It was a busy little house, but well laid out (1921).

Notice how the porch floor extends a little bit beyond the primary wall? That is a very distinctive feature, and makes it easier to identify this house.

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And our Sears Lewiston (1930 catalog).

And our Sears Lewiston (1930 catalog).

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The house at the BGSU campus is so darn interesting, because its a Sears design, but it was ordered from Montgomery Ward. The school could not possibly have picked a better building for the Popular Culture program.

The house at the BGSU campus is so darn interesting, because it's a Sears design, but it was ordered from Montgomery Ward. The school could not possibly have picked a better building for the "Popular Culture" program. Photo is courtesy BGSU Pop Culture House. Yesterday (August 1st), the little house apparently borrowed someone's smart phone and using mirrors and lasers, took a picture of itself. This is one remarkable house. And then, the little house posted its own photo on its own Facebook page.

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In addition to the kit homes from Sears and Wards, Bowling Green also has a kit home from Lewis Manufacturing (Bay City, MI). This was also a national kit home company (like Sears and Wards), that sold houses through their mail-order catalogs.

In addition to the kit homes from Sears and Wards, Bowling Green also has a kit home from Lewis Manufacturing (Bay City, MI). This was also a national kit home company (like Sears and Wards), that sold houses through their mail-order catalogs.

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Another pristine example of a kit home in Bowling Green. This is the Lewis San Fernando.

Another pristine example of a kit home in Bowling Green. This is the Lewis San Fernando. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Also from Lewis Manufacturing, this is the Lavitello, a classic bungalow.

Also from Lewis Manufacturing, this is the Lavitello, a classic bungalow (1924 catalog).

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Another beauty.

Another beautiful bungalow in excellent condition. And it still has its original casement windows. Man, I love this house. Guess it's a good thing it's located safely away from the bungalow-eating state university? Elsewise, it might be feeling a little "disheveled" and living at the landfill. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Wardway Sheridan was a popular house for Montgomery Ward.

The Wardway Sheridan was a popular house for Montgomery Ward (1929 catalog).

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Another fine-looking Wardway Home.

Another fine-looking Wardway Home in Bowling Green. Soon, it may be the *only* Wardway home in town. :( Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And the amazing Dale Wolicki even found a George Barber (pattern book) house in Bowling Green.

And the amazing Dale Wolicki even found a George Barber (pattern book) house in Bowling Green. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Last but not least, a picture of the house on BGSU campus.

Last but not least, a picture of the house on BGSU campus. The house on the left was taken soon after the house was completed in February/March 1932. House on the right is the Sears Lewiston from the 1929 catalog.

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To learn more about the house at BGSU click here.

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Do You Have 60 Seconds To Save A Sears House? (Part II)

July 29th, 2012 Sears Homes 5 comments

Update!! This house is now scheduled for demolition on August 7th. Click here to read the latest!

A Sears House from Montgomery Ward?

Yes, it’s true! But the sad news is, it’s slated for immediate demolition.

Friday afternoon, I wrote a blog about the Sears Lewiston* at Bowling Green State University. Currently this old kit house (circa 1932) is home to the university’s “Pop Culture Department.”

According to an article that appeared in the Toledo Blade, Bowling Green State University has decided that the house must go.  A specific date hasn’t been given, but the school wants the building gone before classes begin on August 20th.

An online petition has been created in the hopes of saving This Old House.  Please sign the petition by clicking here!

And in my professional opinion, this house should be saved.

Not just because it’s an historically significant kit house, ordered out of a mail-order catalog and shipped in 12,000 pieces to the Bowling Green Train Depot and assembled by an old family of Bowling Green, using only a 75-page instruction book and 14 pages of blue prints, and not just because it’s a piece of irreplaceable American and a piece of our heritage and culture… (And yet, those should be enough reasons to save this house…)

This little Neo-Tudor in Bowling Green should be saved for two additional (and uniquely compelling) reasons.

1)  The personal story about how this house came to be: This kit house was purchased from Montgomery Ward in late 1931 or very early 1932. The home’s buyer was Virgil Taylor, the son of Jasper and Mae Taylor. Jasper Taylor was the County Treasurer.

Virgil built this kit home on a lot that he’d been gifted by his parents. Imagine, hauling 12,000 pieces of house from the train depot in Bowling Green to the building lot. That, in and of itself, was a monumental task.

Virgil also obtained a mortgage from Montgomery Ward, so this means that the kit house had to “completed and ready for occupancy in four months.”

Virgil had to hustle.

In 1936, the Great Depression must have hit Virgil hard. He lost the house to foreclosure, and it went back to Montgomery Ward. For a short time, Montgomery Ward rented out the little house and then it was sold to the college in the late 1930s.

This is an amazing story because it’s an encapsulation of life during the the early 1930s. Dad wants to help son get a start in life. Dad gives son a free lot. Son buys a kit home, and working nights and weekends, he builds the house. As he builds it (probably working side-by-side with Dad), both men think about the security that “a home of his own” will give to young Virgil.

As he painstakingly drives in each of the many nails in this kit (about 750 pounds of nails), he thinks about growing old in this house, and maybe someday bringing a wife and child into his “home.” And then the Great Depression hits and Virgil loses everything, including his beloved home and the lot his parents gave him. And the happy memories of working with Dad. And the joy of building something with his own hands. And all the faith and hopeful expectation about his future, secure in a home of his own.

All of it gone, washed away by the economic tsunami of the 1930s.

Losing a house is hard. Losing a home that you built with your own two hands must be excruciating.

Now that’s a compelling story, but there’s yet another reason that this house has captured my fancy.

2) Virgil’s house is a Sears kit home (The Lewiston*) and yet it was ordered from Montgomery Ward.

Yeah, you read that right.

This is not unheard of, but it is pretty darn unusual. Apparently, Virgil fell in love with the Sears Lewiston and yet - for reasons we haven’t discovered yet - had an allegiance or connection to Montgomery Ward. Virgil apparently sent a photo of the house to Wards and asked them to build him this Sears House.

When I first heard that this was a Montgomery Ward house, I was a tiny bit incredulous. Dale Wolicki and I co-authored a book (”Mail-Order Homes of Montgomery Ward”), and I can tell you, they never offered a kit home that looked anything like the Lewiston.

And then Raymond I. Schuck sent me some photos (shown below). This house was ordered from Montgomery Ward. But it’s not a Ward’s house.

Our priority is saving this house, so please - before you gaze upon the awesome photos below - take a moment and sign this online petition. Please forward this link to every old house lover you know and ask them to do the same. Post the link on your Facebook page. Tweet this page. Spread the word.

This online petition is easy to use and loads fast. This won’t take more than 60 seconds of your time.

* The persistent asterisk is because I’m not sure how to label this house. It’s a Sears Lewiston, ordered from Montgomery Ward.

This is the Sears Lewiston that is slated for demolition at Bowling Green State University (Toledo). Photo is reprinted courtesy of The Blade, Toledo, Ohio

This is the Sears Lewiston (ordered from Wards) that is slated for demolition at Bowling Green State University (Toledo). Photo is reprinted courtesy of The Blade, Toledo, Ohio.

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The Sears Lewiston, as seen in the 1930 catalog.

The Sears Lewiston, as seen in the 1930 catalog.

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The floorplan for the Sears Lewiston

The floorplan for the Sears Lewiston

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And heres one of those interesting turns! This

Lumber inside this "Sears Lewiston" states that the house was ordered from Montgomery Ward & Co., Davenport, Iowa. Unlike Sears, Montgomery Ward did not have a "Modern Homes Department." All orders for Wardway Homes were turned over to Gordon Van Tine (yet another kit home company) for fulfillment. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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House

Another piece of lumber shows that the house was shipped to the train depot at Bowling Green, Ohio. The address (128 No. Church Street) was Virgil's home at the time. He lived with his parents prior to building this house. The number (29722) is probably a model number, but it could be an order number. Next to the number is Virgil's name! "V. H. Taylor." Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ah, but it gets even better. Bowling Green is home to several kit homes, including the Sears Willard shown in this promotional advertisement from 1928.

Ah, but it gets even better. Bowling Green is home to several kit homes, including the Sears "Willard" shown in this promotional advertisement from 1928.

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And here is the Willard in Bowling Green! What a beauty! How many Sears Homes are in Bowling Green? Several. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

And here is the Willard in Bowling Green! What a beauty! How many Sears Homes are in Bowling Green? Several. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Tomorrow, I’ll write a blog showcasing a few of the kit homes that Dale found in Bowling Green.

To read one of the many reasons that I think this house should be saved, click here.

To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

The Columbine: The Flower of Sears Homes

July 10th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

The Columbine (from the Latin word for “dove”) is Colorado’s state flower; it’s a perennial plant that grows naturally in meadows and forests.

And it’s also a fairly unusual Sears kit house.

The Sears Columbine has several unusual features, which makes it easy to identify. But this model was not very popular, which means you’re probably not going to find too many of them.

Sears Columbine as seen in the 1921 catalog.

Sears Columbine as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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And the 1928 catalog.

And the 1928 catalog. Notice it's a little different from the 1921 picture.

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In 1928

In 1928 (left) the dentil molding is gone. And interesting, the two catalog images (1928 and 1921) are from different angles. I don't think I've seen any other Sears catalog images that showed the house from two different angles in different years.

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The floorplan in both 1928 and 1921 was the same.

The floorplan in both 1928 and 1921 was the same.

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In the lower left of the 1928 catalog is the slightly different version of the Sears Columbine.

In the lower left of the 1928 catalog page was the slightly different version of the Sears Columbine. The front porch was the only difference between "A" and "B" models.

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Heres a Columbine (Model B) in Elgin, IL. Rebecca Hunter has discovered that Elgin has more than 200 Sears Homes, making it THE largest collection of Sears Homes in the country.

Here's a Columbine (Model B) in Elgin, IL. Rebecca Hunter has discovered that Elgin has more than 200 Sears Homes, making it THE largest collection of Sears Homes in the country. Photo is copyright 2010 Rebecca Hunter and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To read about Rebecca’s newest book, click here.

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Sears Columbine, as seen in 1921.

Sears Columbine, as seen in 1921.

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Heres a beautiful Columbine in Wheaton, IL.

Here's a beautiful Columbine in Wheaton, IL. The large addition (to the right) was very tastefully done.

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The

The pretty Columbine from a slightly different angle.

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To learn more about how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

To read about Rebecca’s new book, click here.

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Hopewell’s Historic Sears Homes! Well, sort of. (Part 4)

April 2nd, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

As mentioned in Part 1, I recently visited Hopewell (Virginia) for the first time in several years.

In early 2003, I went to Hopewell to give a talk on Sears Homes. The talk went well and I sold a bunch of books and I had a wonderful time. Unfortunately, there was a downside to this otherwise delightful visit. Driving through the city, I discovered that most of their Crescent Hill “Sears Homes” being promoted in a local brochure were not Sears Homes.

Unfortunately, a handful of people did not agree with me, and Hopewell’s brochure - with its inaccurate information on their Sears Homes - was not to be changed.

It was very upsetting. Those who write about history have a solemn charge to make sure it is kept pure and honest. That’s something about which I feel passionate.

When I returned to Hopewell (March 18 2011), I was gratified to see that a few of the errors had been removed from the city’s well-promoted brochures, but many non-kit homes were still being wrongly identified as Sears Homes.  (Reader’s Note: This blog is Part 4 of a series.  Click on the links to read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. To read about the collection of Aladdin kit homes in Hopewell, click here. Blogs with photos of Aladdin kit homes are labeled with Roman numerals.)

The beauty part of identifying Sears Homes is matching the houses to their original catalog image.

Below is one such example:

And the Sears Lynnhaven. There are two in Hopewells Crescent Hills.

The Sears Lynnhaven from the 1936 catalog.

Sears Lynnhaven #2

Sears Lynnhaven in Hopewell. Nice match!

Now that’s a nice match. The house in Hopewell looks just like the catalog image. That’s what makes this topic so fun and so intriguing and so delightful. And the cold hard fact is, if you can not match up a suspected kit home to an image in a vintage mail-order catalog, you got nothing.  The house must be a spot-on match (minus remodelings, substitute sidings, etc.).

And that’s my complaint with Hopewell’s purported “Sears Home” at 105 Prince George Avenue. The brochure offered at the Hopewell Visitor’s Center identifies this house as (and I’m quoting), “Original Sears model (remodeled).”

I kid you not.

That’s all the information offered on this house.

Speaking as someone who’s written several books on this topic, and as someone who’s traveled all over this country for the last 11 years, seeking and finding kit homes of every name and nature, I can say with authority, I have no idea what they’re talking about. Sears offered 370 designs of kit homes. Their very first catalog had 22 designs within its 44 pages, and not one of those designs was called, “Original Sears Model.”

There is no “original Sears model” (remodeled or not).

Further, I’m of the opinion that the house at 105 Prince George Avenue is not a Sears Home. And if it was a Sears Home, I’d show you a catalog image so you - the reader - could contrast and compare the two pictures.

But on this house - I got nothing. No idea. So here’s the house in Hopewell that the brochure identifies as, “Original Sears model (remodeled).”

Frustrating

That vinyl picket fence might be from Sears. Maybe that's what they're talking about.

To read more about identifying Sears Homes, click here.

To see Danville’s amazing collection of Sears Homes, click here.

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Customized Kit Homes: A Puzzle!

March 29th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

About 30% of kit homes were customized when built. That’s almost one out of three, and that’s one of the things that makes identification of these homes so difficult. And that doesn’t count modifications and remodeling!  Today, some of these kit homes - first built in the early years of the 20th Century - are almost 100 years old. Lots of things can change in 100 years, especially when it comes to old houses.

Below is a picture of a house in Dublin, Virginia (Pulaski County) taken by Mike and Bev Pinkerman. As a kindness to me, he went through town snapping photos of several old bungalows, and this is one of the photos that he took. And Bev has been faithfully sending the photos to me via email!

At first glance, I thought, “Well, it kinda looks like an Aladdin Detroit.”

Like Sears, Aladdin was another kit home company that sold entire kit homes from their mail-order catalog. The 12,000-piece kits were then shipped by boxcar. The homes came with a 75-page instruction book, detailed blueprints and a promise that a “man of average abilities” could have the house ready for the wife and kids in 90 days.

Looking at the Pinkerman’s photo, I started thinking, “This is a Detroit, but one that’s been modified.”

If you look at the catalog image, you’ll see a small shed dormer. If you look at the Dublin house, you’ll see it has an enlarged shed dormer, but what’s really interesting is that those unusually shaped windows - in the center - are a spot-on match to the Detroit’s dormer windows. And while the center window is a perfect match, the extra windows (on either side) are more traditional double-hung windows!

An interesting find, to say the least! And yes, I think it is an Aladdin Detroit, with extra space on the second floor!

Click here to learn more about identifying kit homes!

Click here to buy Rose’s book!

Aladdin Detroit from the 1919 catalog

Aladdin Detroit from the 1919 catalog

Aladdin Detroit in Dublin

Aladdin Detroit in Dublin, Virginia. Photo is courtesy of Mike and Bev Pinkerman.

Floorplan

Adding width to that shed dormer on the second floor would have the effect of giving more square footage to the second floor bedrooms and also adding one window to each of those bedrooms.

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Close-up on the windows

Close-up on the windows shows that it is the same casement windows as used in the Aladdin Detroit.

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Close-up

Close-up of the catalog image of the Aladdin Detroit.

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Comparison the two houses

Comparison of the two houses

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House

The Aladdin Detroit

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A perfect Aladdin Detroit in Chesapeake

A perfect Aladdin Detroit in Chesapeake, Virginia. This one has an addition on the rear of the house. Notice how the foundation changes at the same point where the roofline changes.

To read the next article, click here:

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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